Tuesday, 28 February 2017

AKHA to set law for herdsmen

AKHA to set law for herdsmen

Lawmakers in the Akwa Ibom state legislature on Tuesday spoke overwhelmingly in support of a bill for a law to regulate and control activities of herders, cattle, and other ruminants grazing in public places within the state.

The bill which was presented by the member representing Essien Udim state constituency in the state legislature, Hon Nse Ntuen, seeks, among others, to prohibit uncontrolled grazing by ruminants in areas which have not been designated by government as ranches.

The proposed law will empower the governor of Akwa Ibom state, by an order, to “designate land in each local government in respect of which cattle or other ruminants may be permitted to graze.”

If passed by the House, the law will ensure that no cattle or other ruminants shall by any means move or graze at night anywhere in the state.
“Cattle movement and grazing are restricted to the hours of 7am and 6pm”, Hon. Ntuen said while urging his colleagues to give the bill favourable consideration.

The bill also makes provision for the impounding of cattle or other ruminants. Explaining the bill with regards to impoundment of cattle and ruminants, Hon. Ntuen said:

“Any herdsmen found in possession of firearms shall be charged with unlawful possession of firearms.

“Any confiscated cattle shall be taken to government cattle ranches or any other designated areas as may be directed.

“Any property or farm products destroyed by the cattle shall be valued by the agricultural officers and made to be paid for by the herdsman”.
The Speaker of the House, Barr Onofiok Luke said the bill is a reflection of the assembly’s people-centred philosophy. He said there was need for the House to act proactively to safeguard the lives and properties of residents in the state.

He said “the House of Assembly is here to make laws that will safeguard the lives and properties of our people at all times because this is what we were elected to do.”

It would be recalled Rt. Hon. Luke himself had in his first term in 2013 moved a motion on the floor of the House seeking full government control of the activities of herdsmen in the state. He had warned that it was important for government to take proactive steps to ensure that areas were designated for grazing, areas where herdsmen and their cattle would be put in close monitoring by relevant authorities within the state.

 Others who spoke in support of the bill are the member representing Ibiono Ibom state constituency, Rt. Hon. Ime Okon and the member representing Abak state constituency, Rt. Hon. Friday Iwok. The two lamented the extent to which activities of herders have endangered the lives and properties of farmers in the country, and said it was time that laws were made to ensure that people are protected.

Hon. Otobong Ndem and Hon. Otobong Akpan warned during the debate that it was dangerous for government to not act at a time when there are experiences of reckless killings and destructions of properties by herdsmen in other parts of the country.

Also speaking, the member representing Nsit Ibom state constituency in the House, Hon. (Princess) Mfon Ekong, said those who suffered the most at the hands of herders and their cattle were women. Deputy Speaker, Princess Felicia Bassey, also said it was important that her colleagues gave their full support to the bill so as to ensure government at the state level turns its search light fully on criminals who claim to be herdsmen.

The bill which was read the second time has now been committed to the joint house committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources and the committee on Environment and Mineral Resources.

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